Sea turtle rescue, rehabilitation and release
Only about one to two out of every 1000 sea turtle hatchlings survive to maturity, and through our sea turtle rescue, rehabilitation and release programme we are working around the clock to increase this statistic and contribute to the recovery of sea turtle numbers worldwide.
We continue to improve on our treatment protocols and have achieved an incredible 85% release rate. The data collected has been written up in various post-graduate studies and publications, and our team continue to contribute to the growing global knowledge base of turtle rehabilitation and treatment plans.
There is nothing better than releasing healthy turtles back into the ocean, the highlight of every turtle rescue season and we celebrate each rescuer, all the rehabilitation support, and each turtle survivor.
Hatchlings – baby sea turtles
Loggerhead and Leatherback sea turtles nest along the northern Kwa-Zulu Natal coast during summer months, and thousands of turtle hatchlings enter the warm and very fast flowing Agulhas current during January and February. Some of these hatchlings wash up on beaches in the Western Cape, usually very weak, dehydrated and very cold.
These baby turtles require tender loving care and often medical intervention, to save their lives, and that is exactly what we do at the rehabilitation facility, our turtle hospital.
Our turtle network coordinator ensures transport of these little patients to our hospital at the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, and after a full medical assessment we initiate appropriate treatments. We often see hatchlings with physical injuries such as partial amputations of their flippers, plastic ingestion, respiratory tract infections, ear infections and hypothermia.
The hatchlings usually stay with us until after winter, so they have enough time to heal and grow a lot bigger and stronger before release, when it is summer again and the water nice and warm. Releasing healthy rehabilitated turtles back into the ocean is one of the most rewarding experiences ever.
Rehab temporary residents
We also get sub-adult and adult sea turtles washing up on our shore. These turtles usually suffer from extensive external physical injuries such as boat strikes or from ghost fishing gear, or they suffer from plastic ingestion. We have had Loggerhead, Green, Olive Ridley and Hawksbill sub-adult and adult turtles arrive at our turtle hospital.
They usually require much more intensive care, from MRI’s to dry-docking to surgeries and often spend months with us. During the final stages of their rehabilitation they get to enjoy the large volume of the I&J Ocean Exhibit at the Two Oceans Aquarium to strengthen their limbs and get them nice and fit for release. We have been satellite tagging most of the larger turtles and can confidently say that they adapt back to life in the ocean incredibly well. Following their post-rehabilitation journeys contributes to a global database of turtle movement in the ocean.
Turtle Rescue Network
Rescuing turtles will not be possible without the support from many people and organisations along the coast. We have been able to develop a fantastic network from Lamberts bay all the way to Port Elizabeth and work very close with the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), Shark Spotters, SANPARKS, The South African Shark Conservancy, Dyer Island Conservation Trust, Lower Breede River Conservancy, Cape Nature, Whale Coast Conservation, Bayworld and many others.
Turtle Rescue Network points act as drop off/collection points for stranded turtles from where we arrange logistics to get the rescued turtles to the turtle hospital. We salute our turtle rescuers.
For all of the Turtle Rescue Network points, download our TRN information poster.
Turtle Road Trip
Each year we head up the coast, to all our turtle network points, to meet with our support crew and inspire coastal communities to all become turtle rescuers and ocean ambassadors. In 2020 we reached more than 10 000 learners, from age 3 to Grade 12, through various interactive presentations, puppet shows and talks. We also took part in various beach clean-ups along the way and distributed sponsored story books to under-resourced schools.
This awareness campaign has informed and inspired many people resulting in more turtles being rescued.
The ultimate aim of our turtle rescue, rehabilitation and release programme is to get all of our turtles back into the ocean. Sometimes the rehabilitation process takes a few weeks, usually with leatherback sea turtles, or years. Most of our turtles we can release off the coast of Cape Town, with the help of various friends of the Foundation, such as the NSRI and Hooked on Africa.
Larger sea turtles are usually tagged, with hatchlings chipped so that they can be identified again, should they strand somewhere else.
Download some fun activity sheets about sea turtles below!